Madrid triggers Article 155 while Barcelona signals it intends on going through with the Independence Process
Carles Puigdemont, the President of Catalonia, has let the deadline set by the Spanish government come and go. That deadline was an ultimatum that demanded an unconditional withdrawal of any claims of independence Catalonia thought it might have.
For more information on the events surrounding Catalonia in recent weeks and months, go here to find our past articles on this unfolding crisis.
After the deadline came and went, 10AM local time today, October 19th, 2017, Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister of Spain, announced that he would triggering the so-called “Article 155” of the 198 Constitution. This article gives the Federal government of Madrid the authority to claim full rule over any region. This will be the first time in the 39 year history of the constitution that the article has been invoked.
The article states, “If a self-governing community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the government… may… take all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above-mentioned general interest.”
The constitution was created after the death of Spanish Dictator General Franco. In response to this move, Puigdemont wrote a letter to Mariano Rajoy to let him know that he would be asking the Catalan Parliament to vote on independence. Puigdemont wrote, in part, “If the government keeps preventing dialogue and maintaining repression, the Parliament of Catalonia could go further, in due course, and formally vote the declaration of independence that was not voted on October 10th.”
“The suspension remains, it’s up to the Spanish Government to enforce article 155 with the authorisation of the Senate… If the central government persists in blocking dialogue and continues its repression, the Catalan Parliament may proceed, if it considers it appropriate, to approve a formal declaration of independence,” Puigdemont also wrote.
Puigdemont reiterated that his request for a face-to-face with Rajoy over the current impasse between Catalonia and Madrid had been flat-out ignored. He also added, “My request for the repression to end has not been met either. On the contrary, it has increased.”
Spain responded to the letter by stating “the government will continue with the procedures set out in Article 155 of the Constitution to restore the legality of self-rule in Catalonia.”
Earlier this week, as a show of force, Spanish forces entered the region and arrested two independence leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart. Massive protests took place in Barcelona, the region’s capital after the arrest, with estimates running as high as 200,000 people participating.
Rajoy is in a bit of a pickle because the Catalans are not without supporters in the Spanish Parliament. As the BBC reported, “The Spanish parliament has seen sharp exchanges in recent days, with the head of one left-wing Catalan party accusing the government of choosing humiliation, repression and fear over dialogue. At one point, politicians from radical left-wing Spanish party Podemos held up placards urging the release of the Catalan independence activists, calling them ‘political prisoners’.”
Rajoy’s source of political power, the Socialists, are also not too keen to move too harshly against Catalonia, despite Rajoy attempting to win them over to his iron-fisted approach to the crisis.
The next move by Rajoy and the Federal government is to take place on Saturday, when an emergency cabinet meeting will take place to determine what the next move for Madrid might be.
As for the EU and its stance, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, made it clear the EU has no intention of becoming directly involved in the crisis, but he added that there was “no hiding that the situation in Spain is concerning”.
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker all telegraphed their approval of the actions of Rajoy and his ruling party, the Popular Party (PP).
Last Monday, October 9th, EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists on Monday that Mr Juncker had spoken with the German Chancellor on a number of issues including the ongoing crisis in Catalonia.
In private, though, numerous news outlets have reported that insiders with the governments of France and Germany in particular, have grave misgivings about the tactics of Rajoy from the standpoint that the heavy-handed approach could actually backfire, especially Rajoy’s use of the Guardia Civil to attempt to stop the referendum vote from happening.
To be sure, these nation-states face their own potential secessionist movements, whether it be from the nation-states, or whether it be nationalists within their borders that wish to secede from the EU. Catalonia is seen as a critical example for secessionists that could embolden or discourage them, depending on the outcome.
As we have written on istate in the past, the nation-states are very concerned about the increasing push by smaller regions to separate from unwieldy nation-states, with all their attached bureaucratic expense and interference on local life.